Yet another SIC councillor is quoted as being more concerned about the travel costs from the West Side or the North Mainland as they are from the isles.
The cost of commuting from all the outlying areas to Lerwick is high, but nothing to the costs from the North Isles and Whalsay. Walls to Lerwick is 25 miles and fuel costs are about £9, Hillswick to Lerwick 34 miles and fares about £12. Mid Yell to Lerwick is 39 miles (road distance only), fuel £14, plus ferry fares of £9.60 totals £23.60.
Carrying additional passengers in the Mainland costs very little more but from the isles four persons in a car the ferry cost would increase by £12.30, making it £35.90 from Mid Yell to Lerwick.
On top of that the isles have the inconvenience of always having to think “ferry timetable”. There is no-one at the Brig o’ Waas or at Mavis Grind closing the road for up to an hour at a time, and you don’t have to make a booking to get through.
I always acknowledge the difficulties experienced by the outlying areas in Shetland; the figures above are only to demonstrate the extra disadvantage of commuting from the outer isles.
It is well over 10 years since fixed links to the North Isles were first discussed and we are no further ahead. If more action had been taken then we could have been seeing massive savings now.
I know there is an urgent need to balance budgets, but don’t just put it on the ferry fares; it ends up being unproductive and is just a tax on the isles.
The SIC officials must sit down with the communities involved and discuss the best way forward. We need some radical thinking though, as it is imperative that we maintain the current day and evening service without increasing fares. The alternative is unthinkable.